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Yerrington Will be Remembered as The People’s Mayor PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Editorials
Tuesday, 25 December 2001 18:00
On December 19, 2001, Mayor Phil Yerington presided over his final council meeting as mayor of Davenport. The occasion was marked with some very touching and humorous moments, especially when Martha Haire, Phil’s administrative assistant, presented him with a ceremonial barstool, complete with names and events that will serve to remind Phil of many events throughout his tenure. Phil took the opportunity to acknowledge Martha’s contribution as well, and reminded us all that his success in the office was due in large part to Martha’s efforts. As editor of a weekly paper that covers Davenport’s civic affairs, I can attest to that. Martha is as much a civic hero as Phil. It was their combined efforts that reopened City Hall’s doors to the public.

Phil’s four years have not gone without controversy. However, it is most interesting to note that the majority of Yerington’s critics have never had a single conversation with him. Most people who meet Phil and engage him find him to be extremely affable, reasonable, and highly intelligent. Those armchair quarterbacks who judge from afar missed the benefit of knowing the man, let alone the complex issues he faced during his two terms. But for those of us who had the pleasure of his company, his views, and his tremendous warmth and sense of humor, we understand and appreciate what he did for the citizens of Davenport.

Phil and I didn’t always agree, but it never got in the way of our friendship. We both made it a point not to allow that to happen. Together, Phil and Martha maintained Phil’s service as that of the people’s mayor. Mayor Elect Brooke has some huge shoes to fill in this regard. He will be surely measured in terms of his responsiveness to the public first, all else second thanks to Yerington.

Yerington welcomed everyone. He was forthcoming, warm, and accessible. He shared information easily and without compunction because he had absolutely nothing to hide. He completely advocated the public’s right to know. Martha carried out this mission in the same open manner. She was the epitome of integrity and accountability. She served as Phil’s liaison, making them one of the finest teams to grace public service.

While both may have been criticized for the very things that endeared them to the public—honesty and accountability—they were able to restore a sense of civic interest and participation, evidenced by the enormous increase in viewership of council meetings on cable channel 13. Phil managed to stay true to himself, while the council we elected last term bitterly disappointed us. Not only did this council betray the citizen’s group that got them elected (CURV), they betrayed Phil as well. Nearly every alderman ran on the coattails of CURV and Phil Yerington, especially Roxanna Moritz, Bill Sherwood, Tom Englemann, and Ed Brown. These political Benedict Arnolds abandoned the very principles and platforms they ran on, and they continue to do so. Moritz won by a sliver, and Englemann too. Thankfully, the other two won’t be returning.

Phil chose not to run for a third term, leaving the public with some rather uncomfortable choices, and some unacceptable ones. In the end, both Brooke and Hollenback appeared to have very little that distinguished them from one another, so many voters felt less than enthused. Now only time will tell if Brooke is a man of honor, or just another pawn for developers. So far it isn’t looking good.

Brooke’s draft appointments to the committees and commission seats look extremely biased in favor of developers and in serious conflict with the public’s good. Specifically, he has chosen Alderman Bob McGivern to re-chair the Community Development Committee (the only alderman he reseated as chair), while at the same time appointing him as liaison to the Plan & Zoning Commission. This means that McGivern will have previous in-depth knowledge of all the development long before it comes before him at the committee level. When Brooke was asked about this conflict, he claimed he had not thought about it in that way. He promised to revisit this issue, and the result appears to be that nothing has changed. Translated, this means Brooke is positioning McGivern precisely where the developers want him. Meanwhile, he has also chosen McGivern as the council representative on the Comprehensive Land Use Plan committee, further entrenching developers interests well in advance of the public’s. These conflicts have been explained to Brooke, who despite the information demonstrates a severe lack of regard for the process with these appointments. If Mr. Brooke confirms these draft appointments, then voters beware. He will bear closer scrutiny than once thought.

I cannot close this year’s editorial without poking fun at the year’s last council meeting. The farewell speeches from the aldermen to the mayor and their fellow aldermen who won’t be returning were almost painful to hear as these folks struggled for something decent to say about one another. And struggle they did. But McGivern was by far the most comical. McGivern declared that he would miss Bill Sherwood the most “not because you voted the way I wanted you to all the time,” but because…why was that again, Bob? However, the classic remark of the evening occurred when attorney/developer Steve Schalk stood up and gave his farewell speech. He told Phil that he “appreciated his remarks in the paper about losing money over the past four years because he was sure he lost money, too.” Let the violins play! Does that mean you lost money and went in the red, Steve? Or does that mean you made less profit than you expected? Or maybe it just means you misplaced some funds. In any event, there is no disputing the fact that if attorney Schalk is on the rezoning case, it gets handled. We should call him E.F. Schalk. When he rezones, everybody listens.

Finally, Dave Lowry, an African American civic leader, criticized the city for participating in the Bix 7 Race because the event director, Ed Frolick, along with his board, decided to disallow non-nationals as winners of the race. In other words, only Americans can win, which means, according to Lowry, only whites. Leave it to Davenport, host of one of the several internationally renowned races, to impose this foolish rule. What I object to most is using the horror of September 11 as the impetus for this discrimination. As an American, I am deeply offended by this aberration. As a citizen of Davenport, I am hugely embarrassed.

During the Christmas season, we often hear the words spoken “Peace on Earth.” This Christmas, we need to search our souls for its meaning. Maybe for the first time in our lives, we must ask ourselves what “Peace on Earth” really means to us. The terror of September 11th is infiltrating much more than our foreign policy, or our military complex, it goes beyond all the rules and mores that we have traditionally taken for granted. I ask again, how much are we going to allow Bin Laden to take from us? It has already been far too much in terms of lives lost. But to erode our democracy, to forfeit our republic should not be allowed. The events of September 11 serve to inflame our nationalism, our outrage at being vulnerable precisely because we are free. But the response should not be less freedom, intrusion upon the Bill of Rights and civil liberties, but instead on intelligence, proactivism, long-term strategy that includes deeper understanding, and preparedness. What conduct, both personal and governmental, supports “Peace on Earth?” This Christmas, take time to think about what it means to you. Christ’s birth is celebrated in the spirit of peace on Earth, and in this profound blessing we must seek the answer to this urgent and relevant question. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Blessed and Peaceful New Year to our entire readership!
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